“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you [all] as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32
Simon (Peter), one of the core disciples of Jesus, did get “sifted” like chaff getting separated from wheat. He got torn apart. You might even say he got broken up. His courage failed him; his anxiety controlled him; his weak heart couldn’t take it. He betrayed Jesus and he betrayed his true self. But, ultimately, his faith did not fail. God held on to him. Just as Jesus prayed, Peter did go on to strengthen the other followers who got sifted and were getting sifted.
I am particularly interested, today, in the idea that he got broken up. We use that term when we get separated from our intimates. I am surrounded by people experiencing being broken up. They are getting sifted. It is a spiritual battle. I pray for their faith not to fail. I pray that one day they will be through it and will strengthen us.
I could be speaking directly to a few people, but I do that personally. So many of us are experiencing this brokenness ourselves or experiencing it in someone else that it bears admitting in writing. Intimacy breaks us and builds us. Our connections come with and cause suffering. Today, I’m thinking of being broken up in two ways. Someone is getting sifted because they were let go. Someone else is being sifted because they can’t let go, even though the person is gone. For others, it is both. I don’t have great definitions or solutions to share, but I am feeling the brokenness, too.
For every Christian who got attached, who gave themselves physically, who made the commitment (some by getting married) and then broke up, it is a spiritual battle. Some of you did not have a tough time moving on; you might be good at hardening your heart, now, as a result. I am not really talking to you. I am feeling for the people who are still being sifted and they feel the brokenness. You are in a spiritual battle. Don’t lose your faith. Don’t let your suffering turn you. Turn back.
Some people are struggling to let themselves be let go. Pray for them. I won’t tell a story, but it is a common one: “I did not intend to get connected to this person, much less have sex, but I did. Now they are with someone else.” Or “It never crossed my mind that they would go out on me. I feel so stupid and embarrassed.” Or “I don’t know why I still want them after what they did to me, but I do.” They are getting sifted. I pray that one of the results is that they accept their true value before God and escape the power of the betrayal.
Some people are struggling to let go. Pray for them. Again, I won’t tell a story, you can tell your own. But they are common: “I repent of the immorality, but I long for the intimacy.” Or “I want two people for different reasons.” Or “I can’t believe that what I am or what we had could have been this damaging.” Or “Maybe there is a way to work this out if we just get away from the family and all these people.” They are getting sifted. I pray that one of the results is that they turn away from hunger and find true sustenance.
Whenever I am talking to people sifted by the betrayals of love I often make surprisingly little headway in convincing them that it is a spiritual place to be. For Christians, in particular, they often think that they need to keep their pain or their desires secret from people who won’t understand, and they often act like it is all a secret from God. Even though they see Jesus discerning the secrets in the heart of his intimate friend, Peter, they fall under the spell of their feelings and can’t get loose. They seem to think that if they admitted that the situation was about more than their attachment, they would lose the attachment, and they either think that is impossible or undesirable. Pray for them. Being betrayed or betraying is about more than the two people involved. And “in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
Broken up people often don’t imagine that what they really need to do is strengthen their brothers and sisters. They are so wrapped up in being sifted, it can become an identity. They are so wrapped up in how they have sex or not that they forget about everything else. Satan would love that.
They often think their loves and lusts are happening in private, but their actions usually end up as tools for sifting us all. Pray that in being let go and letting go they let us all go.
Pray that their faith does not fail — because that failure is a distinct possibility for them. You who are enduring this or who have honestly endured it know what I am talking about. But having been sifted, it is also a distinct possibility that they, and all of us, will develop true strength to share.